Giulio Carpioni

The Virgin and Child


Giulio Carpion
( Venice, 1613-Vicenza, 1678 )


Oil on copper 24.9×18.9 cm


The Virgin and Child before us displays the typical stylisticqualities of Carpioni. Although the figuresof the Mother and Child adhere to iconographic tradition, their facial features reflect what was mostfavoured by the artist, and his way of conceiving and modelling forms.Their expressions, the shapes of eyes and eyebrows, the definition of lips and noses, and even thearrangement of hair, are all part of a recurring and unmistakable repertoire, even when set within alimiting set of conventions. Thus it is for the Madonna, and for the Christ Child, whose gazesandphysiognomies are archetypal creations of Carpioni, as found in other works of the 1640s, when thissmall copper was probably painted.Everything fits into that game of theatrical decorum that gives the artist’s narration an air of suave,serene melancholy, never overemphatic or prettified-as might happen in the illustration ofmythological fables–nor melodramatic.Anything unique and over-intellectual is muted, becoming the regular heartbeat of a rigorouslyclassical vision, so that Giulio’s world,animated by whimsical visions and shaped by an impossiblereality, finds a still, balanced centre. Such an equilibrium was a matter of great moment, since whatlies behind that apparent yet magical oxymoron is almost invisible: the composition of a scene,whichshould be a complex merging of line and colour, here provides us not with an artistic experienceremoved from life, but a lucid, crystalline insight into the human heart that is able to determine thatit is fantasy that gives it its subtle grounding–a conscious, profound, intense and lyrical awarenessof its earthly condition.This was a theatre stage, filled and controlled not in order to pretend or conceal, but to experiencethe extraordinary things that have been given us to their very limit. Inthis respect Carpioni is no lessan artist than Poussin, Reni or Ingres–indeed, perhaps he controls himself without betraying theslightest error and consigning his own work to a sphere of beauty immune from decay and thedefinition of time.Laura Muti